Affirmative Action: Class Over Race? We Asked, You Answered
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because the people have spoken.
By OZY Editors
Last week we asked, “Should we favor class over race in affirmative action?” Here are your thoughts, edited for clarity.
I think affirmative action is just a smoke screen … the major issue is lack of national support for education and training for ALL U.S. citizens.
Definitely agree that class should be favored over race in affirmative action programs. Ranking by class first and then race would give individuals who are challenged by circumstances as well as race a leg up in government programs, hiring, housing and college admission.
I’m assuming we are talking about college admittance and there being a limited number of spaces, so some applicants must be rejected. In my experience (which is all I’m going to relate, not try to imagine all the horror stories possible), coming from a very “low class” school system, it was easier to get good grades than it would have been to get good grades in a “higher class” school system. So, the GPA evened out. I looked good on paper (honor student), but when I got to college, it was like they were talking in a whole different language. Going from being one of the smartest to the most ignorant in my classes opened my eyes to the differences in our education. It took me close to two years before I was competing with my fellow students on an even playing field and I could start to coast while getting better grades. So, my answer would be no, a “lower class” school system shouldn’t give an applicant a handicap for admittance; they already got a handicap in their school because there isn’t as much competition for good grades.
If we “focus on class,” you know that means poor whites first, and everyone else never. We need to focus on both: end racism and poverty. It’s not an either/or; it’s both.
If you look at the roots of affirmative action, it did not involve just race but socioeconomic factors as well. It became a “race” issue when those [who] opposed it wanted to define the conversation and take it away from an equality of opportunity program. By making it about race, the conversation became more of an “entitlement” conversation. It then became easier to defeat affirmative action when the majority thought it was not applicable to them. In its infancy, however, affirmative action was used by all lower-economic persons — white, black, etc. — to gain entry into colleges [that] were historically attended only by the wealthier Americans by simply mandating that the admission process give credit not only to grades and test scores, which could be changed with private tutors and testing learning centers, but also to issues such as work histories and community service, even the high school that a person came from. To this day, many colleges now give scores to such accomplishments to allow for a more diverse student body. It is only due to racism that race has been singled out as an affirmative action issue.
A white working-class applicant applies for a job. A Black working-class person of the same sex, education and experience level applies for the same position. Who gets the job?
Regardless of class, when employers have a choice between two similarly situated applicants — one white, one Black — overwhelmingly employers still choose the white applicant. Until race discrimination is resolved, it must remain the focus of affirmative action.
When Maryland’s prison system is 28 percent black, then I will not worry about the status of Black people. 28 percent is the proportion of Blacks in the state’s population as a whole. 80 percent is the proportion of Black prisoners in the Department of “Corrections.”
Yes, we should. Race is an invented way of categorizing people. There’s no genetic difference. In fact, we should go further and just help people who need help.
I believe strongly that race-based affirmative action is still necessary, at least until our primary and secondary education is actually “equal” for all students (which is still a distant hope).
I strongly believe that money is a powerful tool that provides a lot of opportunity to those who use it wisely. Many people, regardless of race or ethnicity, are trapped in a cycle of poverty when they don’t live in a place with good education; they don’t have families who have the time and resources to feed, clothe and care for them; or they don’t have access to the knowledge that successful roles models can provide. We have rural communities in the U.S. that are as poor and limiting as the worst inner-city communities. More resources for people who want to improve their conditions regardless of historical oppressions would transform the United States into a much more egalitarian society.
Eliminating race-based affirmative action in lieu of class-based affirmative action is absurd. It assumes that people of color are only subject to racism based upon their class. That is a flawed and naive assumption. Certainly by now, America is aware that people of color from ALL classes are subject to hate crimes, police brutality, job discrimination, health care disparities, false imprisonment and educational inequalities. The list goes on and on!!
Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
- OZY Editors, OZY Author Contact OZY Editors